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May 31st 2009 print

John Izzard

What fresh Hell is this?

While looking at an awful photograph on page 11 of The Australian of Sheikh Issa (brother to the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi) torturing an Afghan by burning his genitals and beating him with a nail-studded board; a lump of jam fell off my morning toast and hit a large advertisement at the foot of the page.

Reading Michael Connor’s excellent article on “Business Class Radicals” and Merv Bendle’s terrific follow-up, “Business Class Radicals and Holocaust Denial”, reminded me of an encounter I had earlier this month with a dollop of runny Seville marmalade.  

While looking at an awful photograph on page 11 of The Australian of Sheikh Issa (brother to the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi) torturing an Afghan by burning his genitals and beating him with a nail-studded board; a lump of jam fell off my morning toast and hit a large advertisement at the foot of the page. It was the sort of advert you tend not to look at unless you are seeking a job as a high-salaried professional, or, say an entrepreneurial academic. 

The advertisement called for applications for the “Australian Responsibility to Protect Fund”. The what? The RESPONSIBILITY to PROTECT FUND! 

Reading on, it appears that Australia’s Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, has invested (on our behalf) $2 million in a fund to advance the “Responsibility to Protect”. How curious? Protect what? Our borders? Our national finances? Our democracy? Our pensioners? Noooo! 

Continuing, I discovered that the applicants to the fund should focus on either one of two priority areas: 

1. Advancing the Responsibility to Protect concept. 
2. Supporting States to build capacity to protect populations and   prevent genocide and mass atrocities.
 

Applications for what, though? Pressing on it became crystal clear that the advertisement was calling for those in the “genocide industry” to apply for grants of between $25,000 and $100,000 for a research project or program-of-work. Higher amounts may be considered (naturally). 

Where did all of this come from, I wondered? The advertisement was organised by the University of Queensland under a new enterprise entitled Asia-Pacific Centre for the Responsibility to Protect. Their catchy acronym is R2P and details can be found here. Obviously, curiosity mounted.

Further investigation revealed that the Responsibility to Protect is a concept rooted in the United Nations. It’s a bit of a sleeper in as much as most of the world must have been asleep when all this was being planned and executed. It started out in the home of political correctness, Canada, in 2001, as the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS). 

But fearing the combination of the words “intervention” and “sovereignty” in the same sentence, the name was changed to Responsibility to Protect. That’s called spin!  

The R2P concept moved on to the agenda of the World Summit of September 2005 where two items were slipped into the final draft. Item 138 and Item 139.

Item 138 basically states “Each individual State has a responsibility to protect its populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”. Item 139 states that the international community, through the United Nations, also has the responsibility to use diplomatic and humanitarian means in accordance with Chapters VI and VII of its Charter to also protect populations. 

Items 138 and 139 were adopted by the UN Security Council in 2006 and in 2008 Ban Ki-moon appointed Edward Luck as his R2P Special Advisor. The main player in all this turns out to be our own Gareth Evans, who in his role as President of the International Crisis Group “helped formulate the principle and promote it to the United Nations”.  

The nonsense of all this is the notion that somehow a state, that is committing genocide, war-crimes or ethnic cleansing on its own people, is ever, ever going to take any notice of any R2P resolutions or action by its neighbours. If any country (sorry, it’s leaders), is so devoid of humanity, the action of intervention (non-military) by anyone is going to be a joke. One might tender Burma, Korea (North), Sudan (Darfur), Burma, China, Russia and Zimbabwe as quite recent examples. 

Then there is the great United Nations itself. Big on chatter, hopeless on the Responsibility to Protect

Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Yugoslavia, Darfur — even with UN troops on the ground, the UN not only “failed to protect” but in most cases actually became part of the problem. Mainly because of the UN’s ineptitude. Standing by while 500,000 Tutsi and Hutu citizens were slaughtered was not a good look for Kofi Annan or the United Nations.

Neither was Ban Ki-moon, floating off his commercial-airline-size private jet at Colombo airport, loaded not with medical supplies, but international press. It seemed to mirror the UN’s response to the 2004 Tsunami when the UN took days to react and when hundreds of their officials arrived in the shattered region they spent their time setting up 5 Star accommodation for themselves and worrying about their internet connections — around them, thousands were dying. 

Like an opera chorus, the UN bleats away on the sidelines, while death and slaughter is performed on the world stage. 

Call me cynical, but Stephen Smith’s $2,000,000 R2P fund sounds like a fund to commission anguishing reports by the “genocide industry” on esoteric notions about “cause and effect” and will be about as much use as a dollop of Seville marmalade. Oh… but with a $2,000,000 splash, flying First Class might seem the order of the day for Australia’s “Business Class Radicals”.